Tag Archives: YA

Book Review: No Fences in Alaska – Finding Redemption in Alaska

No Fences in Alaska

By Glen Sobey

Harper is a troubled sixteen-year-old. She is going down a path that her parents never thought a daughter of theirs would travel. Deeply religious, her father is the head of a Christian School. Harper has been expelled from the school and is dabbling in sex and drugs. Searching for herself in the cocoon of religious righteousness has not been easy. She feels as though her family has chosen religion over the love for her they once had.

When Harper finds herself over her head and can’t see a way out of the trouble she is in, she turns to the grandfather she hasn’t seen in years. He lives in Alaska, far away from the family that turned their backs on him many years ago. Her grandpa, Cooper, welcomes her without judgement or conditions. Little does Harper know that he is hiding a secret that will soon affect all of their lives.

Even though Harper knows what she wants to do, she so soon realizes that even the best laid plans are subject to change. As she grows closer to Cooper and the lifestyle in Alaska, she begins to change. Cooper encourages her to focus on her love of music again. Her outlook on life changes drastically, but will it be too late to repair the relationship with her father? Is he willing to give her the chance she needs to become herself instead of the perfect person he has tried to create?

Cooper and Harper are the perfect pair. The characters are both deeply flawed, much like most human beings. It is not the flaws that we should judge by, it is how obstacles are overcome and challenges are met. Sobey does a magnificent job of bringing real issues to the forefront and meeting them head on. That is not to say the characters always choose the best or easiest options, but realistically, who does?

Classified as a YA Novel, adults will also find that No Fences in Alaska is a heartwarming tale of redemption, love and change. The setting of Alaska is perfect. Bears, moose and the cold all play roles in the book. The beauty and serenity of the Alaskan wilderness allows more introspect than any state in the lower 48 could possibly offer.

This is the first book I’ve read by Glen Sobey. His previous book, The War Blog was also set in Alaska. Both of his novels are standalone, but both seem to have the same common thread of love, coming of age and the sharp truths some teens have to live with.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Connelly Boys – Outstanding New YA Urban Fantasy Series

The Connelly Boys – (Celtic Witches #1)

By Lily Velez

Being one of the handful of girls in the entire school stinks. But seventeen year old Scarlet Monroe has little choice in the matter. Everything in her world has changed recently. Her mom died after a long battle with cancer. She had to move to Ireland to live with her father, whom she barely knows. And now she has to go to the school where her father teaches. So here she is, a female in an elite all-boys Catholic Prep school just trying to make it through the day without incident.

Choosing a seat next to a boy who seems indifferent, she gazes out the window while doodling because she doesn’t even have the required books. When she sees a vine moving in a tree as if it is a snake, she assumes she is losing it. Shaking her head, she tries to listen to the professor and ignore the strange sight.

During a tour of the campus, Scarlet sees a guy she can’t take her eyes off of. Her tour guide warns her away from Jack Connelly, stating that he is cursed and that his entire family is probably cursed as well. Recently, the grandfather that is raising him and his brothers jumped off a cliff to his death, leaving the boys in the care of their uncle. Scarlet is shocked, but still feels inexplicitly drawn to Jack.

As soon as Scarlet and Jack meet, she begins to encounter things that are much more intense than moving vines. The infamous Connelly Boys – Jack, Conner, Lucas and Rory would soon become her unwilling allies and friends. Could the rumors about them being supernatural beings actually be true? And how could Scarlet possibly be a part of the world that has powers that most humans do not have or want. But she will do anything to help the father she is just beginning to care about even if it ends up being an epic battle of good versus evil.

This YA Urban Fantasy is full of action, twists and turns as the teens are called upon to save their loved ones using ancient spells, weapons and their own ingenuity. Velez writes one of the best battle scenes between demons and witches I have ever read. It is as if the Harry Potter series and the Sookie Stackhouse series had babies for our reading pleasure.

The characters are rich and complex. I was surprised and pleased to find out the identity of the person orchestrating the evil. When the character was revealed, it absolutely made sense but I didn’t figure it out beforehand, which delights me to no end.

This is the first book in the Celtic Witch Series. It is also the first book I have read by Ms. Velez. I cannot wait to read book #2 in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Author and Bookfunnel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Book Review: Don’t Forget To Breathe – Captivating YA Psychological Thriller

Don’t Forget to Breathe

By Cathrina Constantine

Leocadia, Leo to her friends, is adrift in a life she doesn’t like but chose to enter. Up until last year she was an honor student. But after she found her mother murdered in their home and was assaulted by the killer, she withdrew from her grieving father and most of her friends. Her father drinks to numb his pain and she sometimes uses illegal substances to make it through the day.

A part of her still wants her former life, even though nothing will bring back her mother. She is cleaning up her act at school, stopped smoking, doing her homework again and hanging out with her best friend who never gave up on her. In the past year, Leo befriended a new kid, Henry, who was having trouble fitting in. He wants to be more than friends, but Leo does not feel the same towards him. Henry used to be her go-to guy to smoke a little weed with, but now that she is clean, she feels sorry for him, but is not attracted to him at all.

Nora, her best friend who never gave up on Leo introduces her to Becket Kane. Becket is one of the star football players at the school who has had his eye on Leo. They make a cute couple, even though Henry is always lurking in the shadows. Besides, Leo has had a really awful year and her mom’s killer is still on the loose, how can she get involved with a guy that could never understand.

When Henry persuades Leo to come to the local haunted house that is across the street from the home she lived in until the murder, she is unsure about facing her demons. But when she finds a picture of her mother in the infamous haunted house, along with some fresh flowers she is terrified.

Is the killer close? Will he strike again? Is it someone she knows? All of these questions and more are superbly spun into a tale of lies, deceit and death.

This novel moves at the speed of light, twisting and turning until the shocking last pages. It is a must read for any mystery/thriller fan. The characters and plot fit together seamlessly and it was impossible for me to figure out who the real bad guys actually were until the end. I had my suspicions, but when the motives are revealed, the subtle surprises gave me that “ah ha” moment every reader loves. It is a perfectly plotted psychological thriller, with no loose ends to leave the reader hanging.

This is the first novel that I have read by Cathrina Constantine, but not the first she has written. It is no wonder that Don’t Forget to Breathe is an award winner of the Literary Classics 2016 Gold Award, the 2016 New Apple Medalist Award Winner for YA/Mystery-Thriller and received the Literary Classics 2016 Gold Award.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Undead Girl Gang – Much More than Undead Teen Angst

Undead Girl Gang

By Lily Anderson

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Sixteen year old Camila Flores (Mila) and her best friend Riley are excluded by most of the social groups at school. They are the kids that no one really gets to know, or hang out with, so the girls make a conscious choice to be different. Really different. The snarl instead of smile, mumble instead of talk and the decision to become Wiccan sets them apart from the other kids even more. Wicca is a religion that scares the bejesus out of the people surrounding the girls. They all assume that the girls believe they are witches and run around casting spells on everyone. No matter if the spells work, or if Mila and Riley are even really casting spells, the other kids keep their distance.

When Riley is found dead, Mila is beside herself. How can she cope with any friends? High school is bad enough with an ally, but being on her own makes school and life almost unbearable. And to make matters worse, she thinks that Riley’s death is murder not an accident or suicide.  When two more classmates take their own lives without any logical explanation, Mila is more than determined to find out what happened. Deciding to bring her BFF back from the dead was the only viable solution to finding out who killed her and the other two girls.

Unfortunately for Mila, the spell actually works, and Riley isn’t the only undead girl Mila has to deal with. The other two dead teens are also undead and complaining about it. Drama queens in life make for snarky undead girls. The three of them can’t remember much to tell Mila, but as the days go on, they start to remember what happened before their deaths. This could put the very much alive Mila in danger of joining her dead classmates. The spell only lasts for seven days, so they only have one week to find enough evidence to stop the killer before it is too late.

Undead Girl Gang is smart, funny, sad, emotional and engrossing. I literally read it in just under 48 hours (one has to stop for food and sleep at some point). Anderson has captured the grittiness of high school; magnified by learning the popular girls are no less tortured than the outcasts. The emotion and depth she adds to the characters brings it to a much higher level than merely teenage angst. The life or death outcome and growth of characters both dead and living will stay with the reader long after the last words are read.

This is the first of Anderson’s Teen/Young Adult books I have read. It is a stand-alone novel, following two others she has written:  Not Now, Not Ever and The Only Thing Worse than Me is You. Fans of YA will delight in finding this new author and fans of Lily Anderson are no doubt excited to see another fabulous read from a gifted YA author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Right Handed Lefty – Powerful YA Novel

Right Handed Lefty

By Ryan Coughlin

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Twelve year old Native American Ellis Sayer is different from other kids. He knows he is different and feels as though no one really wants him. Orphaned as a baby, he was adopted by a family that returned him. Now he lives with Marty and Suzanne who adopted him to fill the void in their lives that was created when their son died.

Ellis has two friends. Both of them are quirky but they get by a bit better than he does. Like other teens Ellis falls for a girl that currently hates him, and she is the cousin of one of his two only friends. The lives of the three boys turn upside down after an incident at school. They band together for a noble cause that pits them against an evil man that holds the power to destroy them. Now they only have each other to depend on in the life and death situation life that has been thrust upon them. They feel the only available option is flight.

Ellis is an interesting character. He is trying his best to fit in. He knows he is different and that the other kids don’t like him. He just tries to keep his head down and not get hurt. He breaks my heart for all of the kids that don’t feel like they fit in. This amazing YA novel will have you cheering for the misfits. Against all odds they must work together with a clear plan to accomplish their goal of staying alive.

Coughlin’s first novel is captivating. The parallel story lines of a Native American from years ago struggling with his identity and Ellis struggling with fitting in are expertly woven together to create a beautiful story. He addresses racism, the ostracizing of people who are different and acceptance of the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. He helps the reader realize that love can’t cure all evils but it helps make the evils a bit less painful.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Die For You – Fabulously Complex YA Novel

die-for-youDie For You

By Amy Fellner Dominy

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Teenagers fall in and out of love daily. But the love Dillon and Emma have is more than puppy love. They have a real connection, bound together with deep emotion and a short, but encompassing past.

Emma met Dillon when she moved in with her father after her parents split. It was her choice to leave her friends, high school just before senior year and start over in a new place. It was rough for her and meeting Dillon helped fill the emptiness she felt after making one of the hardest choices of her young life.

Emma helped Dillon fight some demons he was struggling with. This made her feel needed and loved. They planned a future together after senior year. Both had been accepted to the same college and were planning to spend the next four years and the rest of their lives together. They knew their young love would withstand the test of time and both of them wanted to be together forever.

But when Emma unexpectedly receives the most unbelievable opportunity for an internship in Rome for the next year, she knew she had to try for it. Her life dream of becoming an archeologist like her father made studying in the ancient city a dream come true. She felt sure that Dillon would support her dream, after all, it was only a year apart and they could phone, skype and text to keep in touch almost as if they were together.

But Dillon had other ideas. At what lengths would he go to make sure Emma stayed with him forever? She was about to find out.

I loved this YA book. It was a love story, a coming of age story that had elements of suspense, mystery and family issues. The complexity of the characters and story evolution made Die For You a great book for YA audiences as well as adults. It was well written, with realistic conversations and situations. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.

Per her website, Amy Fellner Dominy is “…a former advertising copywriter, MFA playwright and hula-hoop champion.”  You have to love an author with a hula-hoop championship under her belt! She is an award winning YA and youth writer, with a picture book coming out soon. Die For You is her fifth novel, I am looking forward to reading the previous four as well as her picture book.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Captcha Thief – YA Novel Mystery Full of Action, Twists and Turns

captcha-thiefCaptcha Thief

By: Rosie Claverton

 

When “The Blue Lady” was brutally sliced from her frame in the National Museum of Wales, Paul, the night museum guard, is distraught. Who would do such a thing to the painting he and countless others adore? But he doesn’t have much time to think about this abomination because the thief or thieves are still in the gallery and make sure that Paul doesn’t live to tell anyone what he knows.

The local police are on the case. But so is the National Crime Agency. They both secure the museum and begin looking for the art thieves turned murderers that have stolen the painting that is worth millions and snuffed out the life of the young guard.

The Agency sends agent Frieda Haas to deal with the crimes and the local police. The locals have a consultant in their pocket that could have the skills they need to crack the case, but she has problems of her own. Amy Lane can find anything on the internet. She is the best hacker around and has consulted for the police before. The only hiccup in the plan is she is agoraphobic and has too much anxiety to leave her apartment. The pull between the departments as they jockey for pole position is about to get ugly.

Normally, she functions pretty well, using her side kick Jason Carr as her eyes and ears in the outside world. She is attracted to him, and doesn’t mind that he is an ex-con. He brings stability to her world and sometimes she feels close to normal when he is with her.

As the case progresses, the animosity between the two police agencies and Amy’s consulting comes to a boiling point. Are all of them looking in the wrong direction? Have they been trying to sabotage each other to the detriment of the case? No one is happy and the criminals are still on the loose. The good guys are going to have to stop fighting and look outside of the box to catch the thieves.

This YA novel is interesting and action packed. The twists and turns keep the reader guessing. There is a bit of romance going on between Amy and Jason but I’m not sure where that is going. Enter Frieda who is making moves like she would enjoy spending more time with Jason – outside of work.

I like the characters. I could feel Amy’s anxiety and picture Jason’s sexiness. There were interesting interactions of the main players, giving the readers a glimpse inside their heads.

This is the third book in the Amy Lane Mystery Series. It worked ok for a stand-alone novel. I was not necessarily confused, but felt there was background that I didn’t know about that would have made things clearer sooner. But don’t take that as a negative point, it is like meeting someone in high school instead of grade school. You learn their history in bits and pieces and that is ok.

Captcha Thief is a satisfying read for YA and adult readers. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great whodunit with cyber twist.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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